Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

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Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Josephine » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:22 am UTC

I haven't been able to find a single one. what I mean by this is a movie where you sympathize with a protagonist (who is not an antihero), and the antagonist still wins. Completely, the protagonist doesn't even get the brave/honorable/badass death you usually see. Preferably where it's not ambiguous. Any suggestions?

Due to the subject nature and the fact that by merely mentioning the name of a movie in this thread, you can spoil the ending, I'm going to go ahead and declare this entire thread Spoilerzone.

In other words, if you're posting in this thread, don't use spoilers in your posts. If you're reading this thread, this is your warning.

Spoilers Ahead.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby PeterCai » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:23 am UTC

eh...try the horror genre

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby H.E.L.e.N. » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:37 am UTC

Won't any answer be a spoiler?

Anyway, Zodiac. The killer doesn't 'win' but it's pretty ambiguous.

(I wanted to say No Country For Old Men too, but I don't remember it well enough.)
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Josephine » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:39 am UTC

no country for old men works, I've been meaning to watch that.

And I, at least, don't care about spoilers. I'm watching movies for a specific ending here.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Jesse » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:40 am UTC

Swordfish maybe? I dunno.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby DoctorSubmarine » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:48 am UTC

Not sure if the villain technically "wins", but the one that springs to mind is
Spoiler:
Watchmen.
The only reason that this one might be contested is that it is up to the viewer to decide if the winner was really a villain.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:14 am UTC

Spoiler:
The Usual Suspects - totally gets away with everything
The Descent - if you consider the cave to be an antagonist, though I realize that's probably not exactly what you're looking for
Pan's Labyrinth
Children of Men - I think, it's kind of an honorable death thing but IIRC he fails at his goal, and again the antagonist isn't one specific person, but rather the government/society
Memento
Ravenous - technically the bad guy dies near the end, but the cycle continues
Se7en
1984
The Skeleton Key
Surveillance
Wild Country
Quarantine
Session 9 - define winning though I guess
Fallen
Frailty - IIRC
Falling Down - could probably be interpreted several ways, I also might not remember the ending correctly
Identity
Them
Population 436


If you also want movies that aren't necessarily the antagonist winning, but where the protagonist wins but he's also terrible I can think up some of those, though some probably slipped into the above list.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:27 am UTC

SurgicalSteel wrote:
Spoiler:
Pan's Labyrinth Not quite. It's a bitter victory, but the protagonist prevails.
Children of Men - I think, it's kind of an honorable death thing but IIRC he fails at his goal, and again the antagonist isn't one specific person, but rather the government/society Again, no. Bitter victory, but the child does not end up in the hands of the government, the soldiers back down, the regime's future downfall is heavily implied. It's definitely a win for the protagonist.


No Country For Old Men doesn't work, either. Nobody wins: Anton Chigurh is the most obvious candidate for a protagonist, considering he goes a little rogue on his employers, but even then:
Spoiler:
He lives his life by a philosophy based on chance. He says to the other assassin, paraphrased, "If the rule [personal philosophy] is what got you here, of what good was the rule?" In the end, in a freak accident, he gets badly injured by a car. He suffers at the hands of his own philosophy. It's like a priest finding himself in hell.


Swordfish is a good example, as Jesse suggested, and so are the ones Surgical Steel bought up:
Spoiler:
Momento, sort of, and definitely 1984.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby -.Mateo.- » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:36 am UTC

Mr Brooks has an open ending, but he pretty much wins

also, there is a Tom and Jerry episode where Tom won
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Gopher of Pern » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:38 am UTC

Arlington Road is another one.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:42 am UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
SurgicalSteel wrote:
Spoiler:
Pan's Labyrinth Not quite. It's a bitter victory, but the protagonist prevails.
Children of Men - I think, it's kind of an honorable death thing but IIRC he fails at his goal, and again the antagonist isn't one specific person, but rather the government/society Again, no. Bitter victory, but the child does not end up in the hands of the government, the soldiers back down, the regime's future downfall is heavily implied. It's definitely a win for the protagonist.

Spoiler:
Well, I interpreted the ending as she's dead. Which to me says that the Colonel (or whatever he was, don't remember) wins. Or maybe I'm again not remembering enough of the ending? And for Children of Men I thought I remembered the mother and baby just drifting out to sea in the end, but apparently I've misremembered, as I said I might.


A lot of this depends what you mean when you say antagonist and protagonist as well. There are plenty of movies that have a protagonist who is neither a hero nor an anti-hero, but they are the protagonist because they are the main character, The Bad Seed for instance. If we say that the protagonist is just the main character and the antagonist is whoever/whatever is preventing the protagonist from progressing regardless of moral values or Good/Evil roles it winnows down the selection of movies a lot more than if we just use the more colloquial definition of antagonist as just any character who is bad or evil. To use The Bad Seed again, that movie qualifies for the latter definition, because she's clearly bad, and she wins (or at least doesn't lose) but it doesn't qualify if we use the former definition because she wins but she's the protagonist. Using the former definition also makes
Spoiler:
The Usual Suspects
kind of not fit.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:09 am UTC

I can't believe no one has brought this up yet,
Spoiler:
I think Oldboy fits, even though Woo-jin kills himself, it is very clear that he got his revenge.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Zohar » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:10 am UTC

I second EdgarJPublius's suggestion for the Korean movie. I think we should give some hints so people who know about the movie know what we're talking about. A good example for the movie above would be "the one with the part with the scissors", since you can only see it at the end so it doesn't spoil anything.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Lucrece » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:29 am UTC

Spoiler:
Pan's Labyrinth sees the girl die, yes. But the villain is defeated. The girl is not really the protagonist; she's just a vehicle for an idea, and the idea prevails. The illusion is never killed, no matter the atrocities one man may commit upon another. It is the villain's whose memory is shunned and plans are thwarted. Franco's regime came to an end at some point by sheer resilience of the people he oppressed.


My contribution:

The Lord of The Flies
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:36 am UTC

SurgicalSteel wrote:
Spoiler:
Well, I interpreted the ending as she's dead. Which to me says that the Colonel (or whatever he was, don't remember) wins. Or maybe I'm again not remembering enough of the ending? And for Children of Men I thought I remembered the mother and baby just drifting out to sea in the end, but apparently I've misremembered, as I said I might.

Spoiler:
The protagonist does die, but she also gets to go home. It's a film that starkly contrasts folklore and realism, so the ending couldn't have worked any other way. If she disappeared in a flash of light, then it would favour the folklore dimension. She died, but it was her choices that identified her as the true princess, and allowed her to return home.

In Children of Men, the guy dies and then the boat rendezvous with the rebel ship. Just read the wiki, or get a better memory, or something.


SurgicalSteel wrote:A lot of this depends what you mean when you say antagonist and protagonist as well. There are plenty of movies that have a protagonist who is neither a hero nor an anti-hero, but they are the protagonist because they are the main character, The Bad Seed for instance. If we say that the protagonist is just the main character and the antagonist is whoever/whatever is preventing the protagonist from progressing regardless of moral values or Good/Evil roles it winnows down the selection of movies a lot more than if we just use the more colloquial definition of antagonist as just any character who is bad or evil. To use The Bad Seed again, that movie qualifies for the latter definition, because she's clearly bad, and she wins (or at least doesn't lose) but it doesn't qualify if we use the former definition because she wins but she's the protagonist. Using the former definition also makes
Spoiler:
The Usual Suspects
kind of not fit.

No, the protagonist is always the character we see the story's events through: their morality is immaterial, but they're often good because Evil Cannot Triumph. The antagonist is the character who obstructs the hero's journey, not just any baddie. Note that films don't need a protagonist or an antagonist, it's just a classical narrative device that is both simple and effective. You're doing something illogical which is taking that the antagonist is often bad/evil, and inferring the bad/evil character is always the antagonist.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:40 am UTC

This is a terrible thread for me to be in today, because whatever gland is responsible for remembering the endings of movies apparently isn't working. Bah.

As for spoilers, I think anyone wandering in here is probably aware they are going to at least read how several movies end in the broad sense, so perhaps instead of putting titles in spoilers, just put explicit details and discussion of exactly how the movie ends in spoilers? So

Se7en
Spoiler:
John Doe gets Brad Pitt so angry that Brad Pitt kills Doe, completing Doe's project by forcing Brad Pitt to commit the sin of wrath. John Doe wins.


Pez: I know what the actual definition of protagonist and antagonist are. Which is why I said the alternate definition I wrote about was more colloquial. Maybe people around me are just less literary than they should be, but I've heard antagonist used to mean any morally reprehensible character, as in "ZOMG! The movie is told from the antagonist's view!" Uh, what?
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:59 am UTC

I know, Steel, but why would we introduce contradictory definitions for our terms into a cinematic discussion? If the OP asked, "Do the baddies ever win?", then fair. But then that would be an easy question to answer: there are thousands of films where such a thing happens. When we talk about the antagonist winning, we're asking to see something else entirely, and is something that actually merits discussion.

Lucrece wrote:Pan's Labyrinth sees the girl die, yes. But the villain is defeated. The girl is not really the protagonist; she's just a vehicle for an idea, and the idea prevails. The illusion is never killed, no matter the atrocities one man may commit upon another. It is the villain's whose memory is shunned and plans are thwarted. Franco's regime came to an end at some point by sheer resilience of the people he oppressed.

Well, maybe. Ofelia is the protagonist, because we see the entire story from her perspective. We start with her, we're introduced to the fairy tale world through her, we see her initially triumph, we have her failing with the handy-eye dude, we see her overcome her last obstacle and triumph. That's pretty much the definition of a classical protagonist, even if the nature of her triumph is a little unconventional. Whereas the resistance we only meet, what, almost an hour into the film? They advance the plot, give us something that resonates with the main story, contrast the real against the magical, but you'd have quite an uphill battle demonstrating they're the focus of the film and Ofelia isn't. There's depth there, but not the focus of the story.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Kaeyn » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:21 am UTC

Hard Candy, depending on how you watch it.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Malice » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:45 am UTC

nbonaparte wrote:I haven't been able to find a single one. what I mean by this is a movie where you sympathize with a protagonist (who is not an antihero), and the antagonist still wins. Completely, the protagonist doesn't even get the brave/honorable/badass death you usually see. Preferably where it's not ambiguous. Any suggestions?


Fallen was mentioned already, that's probably the best example in the thread. There's no secondary thematic victory (as in Se7en), no extra protagonists (No Country for Old Men), etc.

Speaking of the Coen's, you could say A Serious Man works, assuming you consider the antagonist to be God. Equally abstract, the victorious antagonist of Synecdoche, New York is mortality. But I assume you want more of the cackling villain than just a depressing ending.

The Ring works:
Spoiler:
Although the protagonists survive, Samara gets what she really wanted: the video to spread.


Lots of horror films work, if only because of the twist ending murders. Final Destination springs to mind immediately.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Mother Superior » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:46 am UTC

Silence of the Lambs, sort of.
Spoiler:
Yes, the 'main' villain gets killed, but Hannibal Lecter escapes and is free to roam the world, eating whoever he feels like.


No-one's mentioned the Saw movies yet?
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby charliepanayi » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:45 am UTC

Seven
Chinatown (even more so since Roman Polanski insisted that the original ending where the antagonist is killed be changed)
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Kaeyn » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:16 am UTC

Malice wrote:
nbonaparte wrote:Lots of horror films work, if only because of the twist ending murders. Final Destination springs to mind immediately.


Ugh. I hate those films with a chainsaw-wielding passion.

Question: Would we also be able to recommend films in which the antagonist doesn't necessarily win, but the good guys lose? Cause I'd be able to name a few more if that works.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Fume Troll » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:20 am UTC

I don't know if you'd say the antagonists win in Layer Cake, but the protagonist certainly loses.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:44 am UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:I know, Steel, but why would we introduce contradictory definitions for our terms into a cinematic discussion? If the OP asked, "Do the baddies ever win?", then fair. But then that would be an easy question to answer: there are thousands of films where such a thing happens. When we talk about the antagonist winning, we're asking to see something else entirely, and is something that actually merits discussion.
You're absolutely right. I should have phrased that paragraph better to make it more obviously directed towards the OP. I was essentially asking which definition he was working from: the correct one or the popular/colloquial one. This thread is actually really interesting to me, and thinking about the topic some more I am going to have to revisit my list. For one, The Usual Suspects no longer works with the correct definitions of pro/antagonist applied, as Verbal is the protagonist. And yea, I'll be using wikipedia to confirm my murky recollection of movie endings.

Session 9 - some explanation
Spoiler:
While Gordon is pretty much the main protagonist, the film works in this topic if the antagonist is the asylum, Gordon's condition or even the his murder of his wife and child (yes, the event itself and the affects and memory of it could be an antagonist)
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby ThomasS » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:24 am UTC


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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby zwei » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:10 pm UTC

Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko depending on how you read it. (it's a studio ghibli animated movie)
Spoiler:
in the end, the raccoons are left with no choice but to blend into human society one by one, abandoning those who can't transform...

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby davidmarlee » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:17 pm UTC

In Seven the antagonist wins.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Apr 27, 2010 3:30 pm UTC

1984 is the one that springs to the top of my mind. "Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever..."
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Mother Superior » Tue Apr 27, 2010 5:02 pm UTC

Star Wars episode III.
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Interview with a vampire, possibly?
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Cane » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:33 pm UTC

If I remember The Butterfly Effect correctly,
Spoiler:
Ashton keeps making his life worse with every change he makes until he returns to the womb and essentially miscarries himself.

Edit (before I actually posted): It seems that was an alternate/director's cut ending, but it is the one that I remember most. But the theatrical ending is still based on
Spoiler:
"Everything would be better if I wasn't involved."
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby SurgicalSteel » Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:18 pm UTC

Revised list

The Usual Suspects
Spoiler:
Verbal is the protagonist

The Descent
Spoiler:
if you consider the cave to be an antagonist, in the end all the characters are either dead or have pretty much gone insane

Pan's Labyrinth - disputed
Children of Men - above
Memento
Spoiler:
Not really sure why this was here in the first place. I am uncomfortable calling Teddy the antagonist, maybe Natalie but I really don't think so. They're bad people, sure, but they don't really prevent Leonard from progressing. They aren't really obstacles.

Ravenous
Spoiler:
if you take the addiction to cannibalism to be the antagonist, or the Wendigo curse, it continues afresh in new soldiers in the end. So I would say win. But if you consider the antagonist to be Boyd's cowardice, he overcomes that in the end (with a martyr's death to boot!)

Se7en
Spoiler:
John Doe gets Brad Pitt so angry that Brad Pitt kills Doe, completing Doe's project by forcing Brad Pitt to commit the sin of wrath. John Doe wins.

1984
Spoiler:
Winston and Julia are now good little citizens. The guvment wins.

The Skeleton Key
Spoiler:
The spell works, the spirits continue living.

Surveillance
Spoiler:
Well, Bill Pulman and Julia Ormond kill everyone but the little girl and get away.

Wild Country
Spoiler:
Everyone except the Last Girl dies, and then the Last Girl turns into a werewolf and her and the other werewolf go live happily ever after. The male werewolf got to live, got his kid back and got a new mommy for his kid. I'd say he won.

Quarantine
Spoiler:
The disease/infected kill everyone

Session 9
Spoiler:
While Gordon is pretty much the main protagonist, the film works in this topic if the antagonist is the asylum, Gordon's condition or even the his murder of his wife and child (yes, the event itself and the affects and memory of it could be an antagonist)

Fallen
Spoiler:
pretty blatant and obvious

Frailty - I did not recall correctly
Falling Down
Spoiler:
Pendegrast kills Foster.

Identity
Them
Population 436

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:35 am UTC

Cane wrote:If I remember The Butterfly Effect correctly...

You do, but the theatrical release had a different ending to the DVD release. Basically, there's the bleak ending, and a less bleak ending.

Also, I think Rocky counts.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Vieto » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:02 am UTC

The Great Escape
Spoiler:
Hitler kills all the escapees, except the comic relief.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Ryom » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:02 am UTC

Fight Club
District 9
Dead Poets Society
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
DEXTER Season 4 Finale
Mystic River
Blow
3:10 to Yuma
Wild Things
Road to Perdition
Meet Joe Black
The Devil's Advocate
Raise the Red Lantern
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Lord of War

My memory is a little fuzzy on some of those. And some depend on your interpretation of the antagonist.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Josephine » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:35 am UTC

Wow, thank you. I have a long list to watch.
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Mother Superior » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:04 am UTC

Ryom wrote:Fight Club
District 9

Hmm. Slightly skeptical to these two.
I know Tyler Durden and... erm, Edward Norton are the same person, but seeing as how they're not the same characters, and Tyler is presented as the antagonist in the end at least, surely his death doesn't count as a 'win'? His goals have been achieved, yes, but Edward Norton does defeat him.

As for District 9, I am seriously confused. Motivation?
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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:10 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:I can't believe no one has brought this up yet, I think Oldboy fits
Spoiler:
Even though Woo-jin kills himself, it is very clear that he got his revenge.


edited for new thread rules...
Roosevelt wrote:
I wrote:Does Space Teddy Roosevelt wrestle Space Bears and fight the Space Spanish-American War with his band of Space-volunteers the Space Rough Riders?

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Ryom » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:13 am UTC

Fight Club
Spoiler:
The protagonist rids himself of Tyler Durden but fails to stop his plot to destroy civilization by destroying major financial centers. That being Tyler's only goal, he was won.


District 9
Spoiler:
The protagonist (smart alien) dies and the antagonist (annoying guy) lives on as an alien hiding from the government, who wasn't taken down by either the protagonist or antagonist so the government is a meta-antagonist to both. Also annoying guy fails to get restored to a human. The little alien gets offworld but no result is shown. The antagonist wins (even though his motivation had changed), and then the antagonist's antagonist wins.


Pyrrhic victories at best.
Last edited by Ryom on Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:22 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Fume Troll » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:20 am UTC

Star Wars Episode V. I'd say the protagonists are losing at the end of that.

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Re: Any movies out there where the antagonists win?

Postby Mother Superior » Wed Apr 28, 2010 6:21 am UTC

I never saw Wikus as the bad guy but as the anti-hero, I guess. And Cristhoper Johnson did manage to get off-world, which was his goal. Evil moustache twirling crazy guy got torn to pieces by prawns. Anti-hero learned a valuable lesson and saved the day. All in all, I say that's a win for the good guys. In either case, if you view Wikus as the bad guy, he's on the run, lost his wife, lost his job, lost his humanity and is wanted by... well, everyone, more or less. What a stunning victory.

On Fight Club, I might agree with you. It's not a clean victory, but I guess Tyler Durden does win.
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